While the Bureau claims that it performs "lawfully-authorized intercepts" in partnership with the "communications industry," also known as telecommunications' grifters, the available evidence suggests otherwise.
As Antifascist Calling reported last year, security consultant and whistleblower Babak Pasdar, in a sworn affidavit to the Government Accountability Project (GAP), provided startling details about the collusive and profitable alliance between the FBI and America's wireless carriers.
Pasdar furnished evidence that FBI agents have instantly transferred data along a high-speed computer circuit to a Bureau technology office in Quantico, Virginia. The so-called Quantico Circuit was provided to the FBI by Verizon, The Washington Post revealed.
According to published reports, the company maintains a 45 megabit/second DS-3 digital line that allowed the FBI and other security agencies virtually "unfettered access" to the carrier's wireless network, including billing records and customer data "transferred wirelessly." Verizon and other telecom giants have supplied FBI technical specialists with real-time access to customer data.
"The circuit was tied to the organization's core network," Pasdar wrote. Such access would expose customers' voice calls, data packets, even their physical movements and geolocation to uncontrolled and illegal surveillance.
In April, Wired obtained documents from the FBI under a Freedom of Information Act request. Those files demonstrate how the Bureau's "geek squad" routinely hack into wireless, cellular and computer networks.
Although the FBI released 152 heavily-redacted pages, they withheld another 623, claiming a full release would reveal a "sensitive investigative technique." Nevertheless, Wired discovered that the FBI is deploying spyware called a "computer internet protocol address verifier," or CIPAV, designed to infiltrate a target's computer and gather a wide range of information, "which it sends to an FBI server in eastern Virginia." While the documents do not detail CIPAV's capabilities, an FBI affidavit from a 2007 case indicate it gathers and reports,
"Going Dark" is ostensibly designed to help the Bureau deal with technological changes and methods to intercept Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone calls facilitated by programs such as Skype. But a tool that can seamlessly target hackers and cyber-criminals can just as easily be deployed against political opponents.
The FBI also intends to continue their use of automated link and behavioral analysis derived from data mining as investigative tools. As a subset of applied mathematics, social network theory and its derivatives, link- and behavioral analysis, purport to uncover hidden relationships amongst social groups and networks. Over time, it has become an invasive tool deployed by private- and state intelligence agencies against political activists, most recently, as Antifascist Calling reported in February, against protest groups organizing against the Republican National Convention.
These methods raise very troubling civil liberties' and privacy concerns. The Electronic Privacy Information Coalition (EPIC) filed a Freedom of Information Act request, demanding that the General Services Administration (GSA) turn over agency records "concerning agreements the GSA negotiated between federal agencies and social networking services, including Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv, and Facebook."
With the proliferation of social networking sites, applications allow users to easily share information about themselves with others. But as EPIC points out, "Many online services relay information about online associations as users create new relationships. While government agencies may use social networking, cloud computing, and Internet services to create greater transparency on their activities, it remains unclear if there are data collection, use, and sharing limitations."
And with "information discoverability" all the rage amongst spooky security agencies ranging from the FBI to the NSA, "connecting the dots," particularly when it comes to dissident Americans, "is gaining increasing attention from homeland security officials and experts in their ongoing attempt to corral anti-terrorism information that resides across federal, state and local jurisdictions," Federal Computer Week reports.
Will an agreement between Facebook and the FBI facilitate "dot connecting" or will it serve as a new, insidious means to widen the surveillance net, building ever-more intrusive electronic case files on dissident Americans?
The Electronic Police State
As Antifascist Calling reported earlier this month, citing the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) dossier on the FBI's Investigative Data Warehouse (IDW), the office had "transitioned to the operations and maintenance phase during FY 2008" and now possesses some "997,368,450 unique searchable documents," ready for data mining.
But as study after study has revealed, most recently the comprehensive examination of various programs by the National Research Council, automated data mining is "likely to generate huge numbers of false leads."
Because the mountainous volumes of data "mined" for "actionable intelligence" are drawn from dozens of disparate sources on terrorism or criminal suspects, "they have an enormous potential for privacy violations because they will inevitably force targeted individuals to explain and justify their mental and emotional states."
EFF documented that the Bureau's Telephone Application (TA) "provides a central repository for telephone data obtained from investigations." TA allegedly functions as an "investigative tool ... for all telephone data collected during the course of FBI investigations. Included are pen register data, toll records, trap/trace, tape-edits, dialed digits, airnet (pager intercepts), cellular activity, push-to-talk, and corresponding subscriber information."
Additionally, the civil liberties' group revealed that "records obtained through National Security Letters are placed in the Telephone Application, as well as the IDW by way of the ACS [Automated Case] system." It would appear that "Going Dark" will serve as a research subsystem feeding the insatiable appetite of the Investigative Data Warehouse.
In fact, these programs are part and parcel of what the security website Cryptohippie refers to as the Electronic Police State. Far from keeping us safe from all manner of dastardly plots hatched by criminals and/or terrorists, Cryptohippie avers:
Unfortunately, this is not the stuff of paranoid fantasies, but American reality in the year 2009; one unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
In addition to "Going Dark," the FBI is busily constructing what ABC News refers to as the "development of the Biometric Technology Center, a Joint Justice, FBI and DoD program." At a cost of $97.6 million, the center will function as a research and development arm of the Bureau's Biometric Center of Excellence (BCOE), one which will eventually "be a vast database of personal data including fingerprints, iris scans and DNA which the FBI calls the Next Generation Identification (NGI)."
The program is closely tied with technology under development by West Virginia University's Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR). As the FBI's "lead academic partner in biometrics research" according to a Bureau press release, CITeR provides "biometrics research support to the FBI and its law enforcement and national security partners and serve as the FBI liaison to the academic community of biometric researchers nationwide."
Indeed, CITeR director Lawrence A. Hornak, "a visionary of the Big Brother school of technology" told The Register, he awaits the day "when devices will be able to 'recognize us and adapt to us'." The "long-term goal," Hornak declared, is the "ubiquitous use of biometrics."
But as The Register pointed out when the program was publicly rolled-out, "civil libertarians and privacy advocates are not amused."
But WVU's CITeR isn't the only partner lining-up to feed at the FBI's trough. ABC reports that the Bureau "has awarded the NGI contract to Lockheed Martin to update and maintain the database which is expected to come online in 2010. After being fully deployed the NGI contract could cost up to $1 billion."
However, Federal Computer Week reported in 2008 that although the initial contract will "consist of a base year," the potential for "nine option years" means that "the value of the multiyear contract ... could be higher." You can bet it will!
Additional firms on Lockheed Martin's "team" as subcontractors include IBM, Accenture, BAE Systems, Global Science & Technology, Innovative Management & Technology Services and Platinum Solutions. In other words, NGI is yet another in a gigantic herd of cash cows enriching the Military-Industrial-Security Complex.
Democracy "Going Dark"
The "vast apparatus of domestic spying" described by the World Socialist Web Site, greatly expanded under the criminal Bush regime is a permanent feature of the capitalist state; one that will continue to target political dissent during a period of profound economic crisis.
That the Obama administration, purportedly representing fundamental change from the previous government, has embraced the felonious methods of the Bush crime family and its capo tutti capo, Richard Cheney, should surprise no one. Like their Republican colleagues, the Democrats are equally complicit in the antidemocratic programs of repression assembled under the mendacious banner of the "global war on terror."
From warrantless wiretapping to the suppression of information under cover of state secrets, and from the waging of imperialist wars of conquest to torture, the militarist mind-set driving capitalist elites at warp speed towards an abyss of their own creation, are signs that new political provocations are being prepared by America's permanent "shadow government" the military-intelligence-corporate apparatus.
This article originally appeared on GlobalResearch.ca.
August 24, 2009
Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press and the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press.
Copyright © 2009 Tom Burghardt, Antifascist Calling...